EXCLUSIVE PHOTO & VIDEO TOUR: Heritage Auctions’ “Art of the Disney Theme Park” Lets Bidders Take Home a Piece of Walt Disney World History
DALLAS, Texas (March 29, 2021) – From turning beloved fairytales into timeless animated classics, and transforming orange groves into magic kingdoms, the power of Walt Disney’s unique brand of storytelling knows no bounds. Harnessing artistic vision and technological innovation, the Disney theme parks have continued this legacy for more than six decades to everlasting delight of fans who have made millions of memories along the way.
Now, on the eve of Disneyland’s reopening and as Walt Disney World kicks off its 50thanniversary celebration, Heritage Auctions’ April 8-10 The Art of the Disney Theme Park & Disney Storybook Art auction event looks back on the history of the Disney theme park by allowing fans and collectors the opportunity to own pieces of that very special past. The event will offer several hundred lots of art and artifacts, from Walt’s backyard railroad through the opening of Disneyland in 1955 to the creation of Walt Disney World in 1971 to infinity and beyond.
“The nostalgia for Disney theme parks is something that unites generations of fans,” says Jim Lentz, Vice President of Animation at Heritage. “More than vacation memories, the power of nostalgia is in its ability to capture the energy and emotion of a time and place. While Disneyland and Walt Disney World are ever-changing, the memorabilia of those earlier times are tangible touchpoints to the past — a way to celebrate its history and preserve those memories.
All good journeys need a good beginning, and this one is right out of Hollywood. There, long before Disneyland, on five acres surrounding the Disney family home at 355 Carolwood Drive in Los Angeles’ Holmby Hills neighborhood, Walt Disney debuted his first theme park, a rideable railroad in miniature, exact to the last detail.
The Carolwood Pacific Railroad, 2,615 feet of track upon which Disney the train conductor ran his 1/8-scale, 260-pound, coal-fueled, 7¼-inch gauge train, all pulled by the locomotive Lilly Belle, so named for Walt’s wife Lillian. “I just needed something to get myself away from things,” Disney once said of his decision to create this backyard railyard, the original plans and blueprints for which serve as the extraordinary centerpiece of The Art of the Disney Theme Park & Disney Storybook Art event. Completed in 1950, Disney’s backyard train was only the beginning of a new direction that would take the magic of storytelling from the silver screen to real life.
The sale is chock full of Disneyland nostalgia from the early days of the theme park, capturing the mid-century magic and whimsy of its earliest years of operation. The offerings range from the iconic to the esoteric.
Sometimes the best stories are found in the more esoteric items on offer, including a 1957 Disneyland Dictionary that offers a glimpse into daily operations of the early days of Disneyland and provides an exciting preview of things to come, including the never-realized Edison Square and Chinatown areas of the park and a preview of the Haunted Mansion, then planned to be positioned at the end of Main Street U.S.A.
Celebrating a half century since its 1971 opening, Walt Disney World has a starring role in this sale as nostalgia for the Florida theme park and resort has accelerated with the approaching anniversary.
“Walt Disney World has a way of renewing itself for each generation, and now visitors to the parks from the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s are seeking out memorabilia from the Vacation Kingdom’s early decades of operation,” says Lentz.
“Among my favorite pieces are from the quieter corners of Walt Disney World,” Lentz says, “such as the silkscreened restaurant posters from the Contemporary Resort in the 1980s. Some of these places were around for a year, some for a decade, but they’re all remembered here and the post-modern graphics that Disney’s sign shop utilized are amazingly fun to look back at.”
With artifacts and memorabilia from the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and across the resort, there’s a little bit of everything from every era for every collector.
The journey does not stop with Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
The auction includes rare memorabilia from Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, the Disney Cruise Line and even the Disney Store. Included in the auction are life-sized Disney animated character display figures from the Disney Store that were ubiquitous parts of 1990s childhoods at malls across America, including complete collections of Alice in Wonderland and Beauty and the Beast figures.
“Disney theme parks and storybook art have so much in common, they are both fundamentally about the magic of Disney storytelling and they collectively speak to the changing aesthetics of the decades of their creation,” Lentz says. “So much of Walt Disney’s contributions to animation are timeless, the storytelling in these mediums displays the possibility of creating something with that magic of Disney that is very much of its own time.
“The tremendous surge in interest in this collecting area far outpaces the extremely limited supply. So many of these are one-of-a-kind artifacts, and we are honored and excited to not only bring these lots together but to take collectors on a journey through the history of the Disney theme parks.”
Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.
Heritage also enjoys the highest Online traffic and dollar volume of any auction house on earth (source: SimilarWeb and Hiscox Report). The Internet’s most popular auction-house website, HA.com, has more than 1,250,000 registered bidder-members and searchable free archives of five million past auction records with prices realized, descriptions and enlargeable photos. Reproduction rights routinely granted to media for photo credit.